Elder Affairs aide fired
Peter Antonellis says termination in retaliation for comments
The Patrick administration has fired an employee at the state Elder Affairs office who has publicly criticized the agency’s oversight of assisted living facilities.
Peter Antonellis, a compliance officer with Elder Affairs, said he was notified that he was being terminated in a Nov. 26 letter from Ann Hartstein, the secretary of Elder Affairs. Antonellis said the two-page letter, along with a three-page hearing decision, indicated he was being fired because he failed to cooperate during the hearing and could not be trusted.
Antonellis called his termination unfair and said he is consulting an attorney about initiating litigation against the state. “The termination was most definitely retaliation against me for my speaking out both inside the agency and to the press,” he said. “I think they’ve been after me for a long time and now they found a pretext for getting rid of me.”
David Kibbe, a spokesman for the executive office of Health and Human Services, confirmed Antonellis is no longer employed by Elder Affairs but declined further comment because the matter is a personnel issue. Antonellis declined to release his termination letter and the hearing decision on the advice of his attorneys.
Antonellis was placed on paid administrative leave Oct. 14 while state officials investigated what they said were “multiple instances of potentially inappropriate and unprofessional conduct.” State officials never spelled out what the inappropriate and unprofessional conduct was, but their investigation began only after Antonellis began speaking out publicly about shortcomings at the agency.
In early September, Antonellis was quoted in CommonWealth as saying Elder Affairs conducts little analysis of the thousands of reports it receives each year concerning abuse, neglect, falls, and other incidents at the state’s 200 assisted living facilities. He called the agency’s incident reporting program “nothing more than a hollow and dangerous façade.” A week later he told the Boston Globe that “most elders and their families think this is a regulated industry, but we don’t have the staff to regulate it.”Antonellis said he had raised many of the same issues a year earlier in memos to top officials at Elder Affairs and to John Polanowicz, the governor’s secretary of health and human services. Polanowicz said in September that he had no problem with Antonellis speaking out publicly.
A little over a week ago Elder Affairs proposed new regulations barring assisted living facilities from accepting or continuing to serve residents too frail to take care of themselves. Assisted living facilities are intended for elderly people who may need daily support but are capable of living alone in apartment-like units. Increasingly, however, many elders have stayed on at assisted living facilities long after their health has deteriorated and may be better suited for more expensive nursing homes.